The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945

A photo of The Japanese House, Architecture and Life after 1945, Installation at Barbican Centre.

The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 is the first major UK exhibition to focus on Japanese domestic architecture from the end of the Second World War to now, a field which has consistently produced some of the most influential and extraordinary examples of modern and contemporary design. The exhibition features over 40 architects, ranging from renowned 20th century masters and internationally celebrated contemporary architects such as Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito, Kazuyo Sejima (SANAA) and Kenzo Tange; to exciting figures little known outside of Japan including Osamu Ishiyama, Kazunari Sakamoto and Kazuo Shinohara and young rising stars such as Hideyuki Nakayama and Chie Konno. The Japanese House presents some of the most ground-breaking architectural projects of the last 70 years, many of which have never before been exhibited in the UK. The exhibition also incorporates film and photography in order to cast a new light on the role of the house in Japanese culture. The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 opens at Barbican Art Gallery on 23 March 2017. 

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts said “I couldn’t be more delighted that we are able to now stage this pioneering, timely exhibition that forefronts some of the most astounding work by Japanese architects in the post-war period. The focus on the ‘house’ is always a particular joy, as we all relate to the way in which intimate, domestic architectural spaces are lived in. As such the exhibition is a follow up to The Surreal House of 2010, and builds on a now well-consolidated history of architecture exhibitions at the Barbican such as The World of Charles and Ray Eames(2015), Bauhaus: Art as Life (2012) and Le Corbusier: The Art of Architecture (2009). In building two 1:1 scale houses in the Gallery, I’m proud to say that with this exhibition we have achieved a new level of ambition. We invite the visitor to not just consider Japanese architecture, but to experience it.” 

At the heart of the exhibition is an ambitious and unprecedented full-size recreation of the Moriyama House (2005) by Pritzker-prize winning architect Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA) – considered to be one of the most important houses of the 21st century. Representing a radical decomposition of the conventional house, this building consists of ten individual units (some only as large as a bathroom), separated by an exterior garden. Specially conceived in collaboration with Nishizawa for the exhibition, this reconstruction of the house is intertwined within the Barbican’s celebrated Brutalist architecture. Visitors are able to weave in and out of the fully furnished units and garden, experiencing this remarkable house in an immediate and physical way – imagining how it might be to live there. Hundreds of objects, including books, music and films, recreating the creative world of the house’s owner Yasuo Moriyama, bring this beautiful structure to life. More than a mere architectural model, this 1:1 recreation forms a portrait of Moriyama – a reclusive collector who has never left Japan. 

The Japanese House also features the world premiere of Moriyama-san, a new film by renowned filmmakers Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine which documents a personal and spontaneous encounter with Mr Moriyama, allowing viewers privileged access into the day-to-day life of this 21st century urban hermit. This is Bêka & Lemoine’s second collaboration with the Barbican, following Barbicania, their 2014 account of life within the walls of the Barbican Estate. 
Filling the other half of the Barbican’s lower galleries, beyond the Moriyama House, visitors will discover an equally ambitious new commission by Terunobu Fujimori. Both a practicing architect and a highly respected historian of Japanese architecture, Fujimori is known for his eccentric and lovingly crafted structures. For the Barbican he is designing his biggest teahouse ever with an exquisite garden. This teahouse, with a hand-charred timber exterior and a white plaster interior, forms a counterpoint to the contemporary minimalism of the Moriyama House, revealing the importance of the handmade, the material and the fantastical in Japanese design. 

The gallery environment is transformed every 30 minutes by lighting that mimics dawn to dusk, ensuring that every visitor can experience the magic of these buildings across any one day. 

Considering developments in residential architecture in the light of important shifts in the Japanese economy, urban landscape, and family structure, the exhibition features over 200 works including rarely seen architectural models and drawings, photography and films. Structured thematically, sections such as A House is a Work of Art, Earth and Concrete, Inhabiting the Experimental, Sensorial, Beyond the Family, Lightness, Vernacular, shine a spotlight on a different facet of this remarkably diverse field, establishing a rich picture of a distinctive architectural culture. Highlights include a 1:1 installation designed by Kazuyo Sejima based on her House in a Plum Grove (2003); Kazuo Shinohara’s iconic Tanikawa Villa (1974) with its startling soil-floored interior; the Arimaston Building (2005– ), a remarkable house that former Butoh dancer Keisuke Oka has been building by hand for over 15 years, one 70cm2 block of concrete at a time; innovative projects from Toyo Ito, including the atmospheric White U (1976) and the visionary Pao: A Dwelling for Tokyo Nomad Women (1985); Atelier Bow-Wow’s charming Pony Garden (2008); the radical Anti-Dwelling Box (1972) by Kiko Mozuna; and Kiyonori Kikutake’s Sky House (1958), a single-room concrete structure that is suspended in the air. 

In the wake of the war, the widespread devastation of Tokyo and other cities in Japan brought an urgent need for new housing, and the single family house quickly became the foremost site for architectural experimentation and debate. In an effort to establish an architectural language for a new period in Japanese history, architects such as Kenzo Tange and Seiichi Shirai explored ways to synthesise tradition with modernism. In the years following, Japanese architects have consistently used their designs to propose radical critiques of society and innovative solutions to changing lifestyles. In the 1970s, designers concentrated on enclosed houses that acted as defensive bulwarks against the polluted and overpopulated city; and in the 1980s the economic excesses of the Bubble era saw architects embrace the onset of information technologies and produce houses that were exceptionally lightweight and open to the outside world. Recent Japanese residential architecture, particularly in Tokyo, suggests ingenious solutions to the constraints of living in the world’s largest metropolis; while parallel to this tendency there is a continued understanding of the house as a privileged space for fantasy and creative expression. 

Architects featured: Takefumi Aida, Tadao Ando, Atelier Bow-Wow, Takamitsu Azuma, dot architects, Hiromi Fujii, Terunobu Fujimori, Sou Fujimoto, Itsuko Hasegawa, Go Hasegawa, Kiyoshi Ikebe, Ikimono Architects, Kumiko Inui, Junya Ishigami, Osamu Ishiyama, Toyo Ito, Yuusuke Karasawa, Kiyonori Kikutake, Chie Konno, Kisho Kurokawa, Kunio Maekawa, Makoto Masuzawa, Katsuhiro Miyamoto, Kiko Mozuna, Kazuhiko Namba, Hideyuki Nakayama, Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA), Katsuhiko Ohno, Keisuke Oka, onishimaki + hyakudayuki, Antonin Raymond, Junzo Sakakura, Kazunari Sakamoto, Kazuyo Sejima (SANAA), Kiyoshi Seike, Kazuo Shinohara, Seiichi Shirai, Kenzo Tange, Tezuka Architects, Riken Yamamoto, Kazumasa Yamashita, Junzo Yoshimura, Takamasa Yoshizaka.  

Exhibition Team
The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 is curated by Florence Ostende (Barbican Centre, London), in collaboration with Pippo Ciorra (MAXXI, National Museum of the 21st Century Arts, Rome). The Chief Advisor is Yoshiharu Tsukamoto (Atelier Bow-Wow/Tokyo Institute of Technology). The Academic Advisor is Hiroyasu Fujioka (Professor Emeritus, Tokyo Institute of Technology). The exhibition designer is Lucy Styles. The Fujimori tea-house is designed by Terunobu Fujimori in collaboration with architect Takeshi Hayatsu and built by students from Kingston University.

The exhibition is co-organised by the Japan Foundation and the Barbican Centre and co-produced by the Japan Foundation, the Barbican Centre, MAXXI National Museum of the 21st Century Arts, Rome and MOMAT National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. The project was initially conceived in Tokyo by Kenjiro Hosaka (MOMAT) and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto.

The Japanese House opens at MAXXI, Rome on 9 November 2016 until 26 February 2017 and will travel to MOMAT, Tokyo on 19 July –29 October 2017.

Sponsored by Kajima , Japan Centre , Shiseido  and Natrium Capital.
With additional support from Japan Airlines, The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation.
Media Partner: Elle Decoration 
The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue, edited by Pippo Ciorra (Senior Curator at MAXXI, National Museum of the 21st Century Arts, Rome) and Florence Ostende (Curator at Barbican Art Gallery). Designed by Kellenberger-White and published by Marsilio, it features essays by Pippo Ciorra (MAXXI), Hiroyasu Fujioka (Professor Emeritus at Tokyo Institute of Technology), Kenjiro Hosaka (Curator at The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo) and Florence Ostende (Barbican Centre).
Price: £35
ISBN: 9788831725767




Architecture on Stage: Ryue Nishizawa
Sunday 26 March, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm

The Barbican Centre and the Architecture Foundation are delighted to announce that the Pritzker Prize winning architect, Ryue Nishizawa will headline the 2017 Architecture on Stage programme. In conjunction with the exhibition The Japanese House: Architecture and Life After 1945, architect Ryue Nishizawa talks about the work of both his own office and that of SANAA, the office he shares with Kazuyo Sejima. The youngest architect to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize, Nishizawa’s practice ranges from major art museums such as Hiroshi Senjyu Museum to experimental family homes. This is a rare opportunity to hear the architect discussing his pioneering Moriyama House, which is presented in the exhibition in an ambitious 1:1 recreation.
Standard: £15 / Concession: £12 / Barbican Member: £12 / Architecture Foundation Members: £12 / Young Barbican: £5

Architecture on Stage: Kazunari Sakamoto and Go Hasegawa
Saturday 10 June, Frobisher Auditorium 1, 7pm

Best known for a series of low-cost houses, distinguished by their highly individual scale and proportion, legendary Japanese architect, Kazunari Sakamoto, joins his former student, Go Hasegawa, in conversation. Both architects’ work is part of The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 exhibition. 
Standard: £15 / Concession: £12 / Barbican Member: £12 / Architecture Foundation Members: £12 / Young Barbican: £5


Exhibition Tour with Florence Ostende
Thursday 20 April, Art Gallery, 7pm

Curator Florence Ostende gives a guided tour of the exhibition, exploring the role of the house in Japanese culture in the light of architecture, film and photography.
£5–£14.50 (include same-day entry to the exhibition) / Under 14s: FREE

Exhibition Tour with Luke Naessens
Thursday 18 May, Art Gallery, 7pm

Exhibition Assistant Luke Naessens leads a guided tour of the exhibition.
£5–£14.50 (include same-day entry to the exhibition) / Under 14s: FREE


Tea Ceremony
Art Gallery

On certain Thursdays and Saturdays throughout the exhibition run, tea ceremonies are performed for exhibition ticket holders in the Art Gallery within the garden of the tea house designed by Terunobu Fujimori. The ceremony is demonstrated by the Urasenke Tankokai UK Association, a 400 year old Japanese Tea Ceremony School.

Barbican Cinema
14 May–24 June 2017

To complement the exhibition, Barbican Cinema presents a season exploring Japanese architecture and the country’s distinctive domestic environment on film.
Screenings include Woman of the Dunes (dir Hiroshi Teshigahara), An Autumn Afternoon (dir Yasujirô Ozu), The Crazy Family  (dir Sogo Ishii), The Tale of Princess Kaguya  (dir Isao Takahata), Whisper of the Heart  (dir Yoshifumi Kondo), Only Yesterday  (dir Isao Takahata), plus a rare chance to experience a silent film screening of I Was Born, But… (dir Yasujirô Ozu) with live Katsudo-Benshi narration and piano accompaniment by Mie Yanashita. For full listings and further information, please visit

For further Film Season information contact
Sarah Harvey Publicity 020 7232 2812
Sarah Harvey
Hayley Willis

Family Days, Workshops and School Tours

The Japanese House Family Day
Sunday 23 April, 11am–4pm
Art Gallery and Garden Room

A day of hands-on workshops inspired by The Japanese House where you can get creative with washi paper, try your hand at architectural design and explore what ‘house’ and ‘home’ mean to you. This series of drop-in artist led workshops are suitable for all the family. For full listings and further information, please visit

Family Drop-in Workshops
Sat 27 May and Sat 17 June 2017, 1–4pm
Art Gallery

A series of hands-on workshops for families are offered in the Art Gallery Workshop. For full listings and further information, please visit

School Tours
Barbican Art Gallery is also running a School Tours programme for school groups with experienced and trained tour guides, free for exhibition ticket holders.
Further details and bookings at

Children’s Activity Sheet
A free children’s activity sheet is available at the Art Gallery ticket desk.